Wednesday, August 24, 2005

REVIEW: CSI Crime Scene Investigation

I know I am late to the party on this one, but the show CSI (the original) is worthy of analysis on several levels. I must admit never seeing this show when it was atop the ratings chart in prime time. I catch it now in reruns on Spike TV during the dinner hour - which can be rather gruesome when consuming red meat if you know what I mean.

First, much of show is preposterous and implausable. For instance: 10 minute DNA tests spitting out the laserjet printer and then instantly analyized for a positive match is just plain silly. Putting the ridiculous aside the strength of the show is the characters and not necessarily the processes.

What is absolutely refreshing about this show is that unlike Perry Mason or Quincy, or any number of crime shows the CSI team does not always win. A fair number of their cases never make it to trial because the "evidence" is too thin or the aggrieved was actually a victim of an accident. In their frustration these well acted characters often display the endearing traits of the flawed beings that they are.

Gil Grissom, the boss, the heart of the team and the show, may well be the most flawed of them all. He is a man who has lost himself in his work. He has no life outside the job. This fact is often part of the story line, yet we never really know what personal tragedy drove him to abandon human relations for the microscope. He is a dedicated public servant and demands professionalism from his staff, but occasionally has emotional stumbles himself. He prefers the night shift as a way to avoid the office politics required for managers who work 9 to 5. Excellently acted by William Peterson, Grissom seems like a real person. I especially like his interaction with the often irritating lab technicians.

Kathryn, a lead CSI, is perhaps one of the sexiest characters on TV. She is fully aware that every man she comes across "wants some of that", and since she is entirely comfortable with her sexuality on all levels she never seems bothered by it. She is the humanity to Grissom's clinician, an hence her flaws are manifested in misguided empathy that sometimes has jeopordized her cases. Her personal life is dominated by a bitter divorce that left her with a daughter she has since dedicated her life to. "The Job" and the child dominate her life to the point where her own needs are met by engaging in a series of romances that lead to theraputic sex and not much more. On the job she is blunt and even a little callous, which is what makes her very real.

Warrick, the blue eyed black man, is the street smart member of the team. He is tireless and follows a hunch with singular determination. He seems to be Grissom's favorite and the closest thing to a confidant the boss has. He also has a past. He is known to have a bit of a gambling problem and - he works in Las Vegas! He is hard on himself and everyone on the team, but he doesn't preach or play the victim. He is sometimes moody and sullen which makes him as real as anyone you might work with.

Sarah Sidle is the polar opposite of Kathryn in her acceptence of her sexuality and the real and perceived grievences that all men have perpetrated on womanhood. She is actually quite annoying at times, both to the viewer and to her co-workers. She is, however a first rate CSI and a capable scientist. She was attracted to the position in the Las Vegas crime lab by her attraction to a daddy figure - namely Grissom. This is a story line that smoldered over a long time. Grissom seemed genuinely shocked him when he finally realized it. Ultimately he rejected her out of a sense propriety, and of course, Sarah Sidle is a human being not a microscope.

Nick Stokes is so determined to be the best CSI he possibly can be that he stumbles over himself and everyone else. He is certainly the most reprimanded member of the team, but he also has the most real passion and ambition of them all. Unstung by cynisim Nick has true empathy for the victims and wants more than anything else for justice to be served. He is like many real people you know: loyal, hard working and headstrong. It's hard not to like him.

Finally, I think the best thing this show does is to keep agenda politics out of it. Unlike the other crime show empire, Law and Order there is no subtle jabs at the President or mouth breathing conservative ape men. Even when the story line steers them into controversial waters they delicately tread where others get preachy. In one episode they explored Grissom's Catholic roots and although he did not bow before the altar he also did not fiegn rightousness or tout the superiority of "science" over faith. He said to the priest that he atually did believe in God - it was man's religions he had a problem with. I can't really argue with that.


PS - CSI: Miami SUCKS precisely because the characters are completely unreal!


TJ Willms said...

The only obvious concession to Hollywood PCism the writers of this show routinely make is that the perpetrators of 99.5% of the crimes are white, and an obscenely high proportion of those are white men.

Another show that deserves a look has many of the same strengths and a surprising number of the similar weaknesses is NCIS another a CBS drama. Rather than Las Vegas this show is set in the Washington DC based Naval criminal investigation service. The characters make the show. The forensics that are at the same time truly amazing and totally unrealistic in their speed ask the viewer set aside reality to a degree but don’t fatally handicap the story being told.

This crew of investigators also fails to win every week but they do by the end of each show have a firm grasp on “who done it” even if the can’t shoot or prosecute the scumbag they happen to be chasing this week.

Tracy said...

I got Tivo for Christmas and Tivo'd all of the CSI's on Spike for 5 months. 2 a night was tough to keep up with, luckliy I got laid off in Feb!

I'm not all caught up and now I'll have to Tivo the weekly show. CSI Miami sucks because David Caruso Sucks. CSI NY is pretty good because of Gary Sinese.